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(UPDATE: Aug. 22 @ 11:35 am) - If there is one thing that local fire chiefs have made perfectly clear, it's that they don't want to jump the gun when it comes to saying how many structures have been lost in Central Okanagan wildfires.
“It’s important that we get those exact numbers right," West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said at this morning's daily briefing. "We want to ensure that we’re accurate, because this is important work.”
Brolund said he expects those numbers to come from Central Okanagan Emergency Operations soon, but he noted that the expectation is the number of partial and full losses within the City of West Kelowna and Westbank First Nation to be less than 90.
That includes less than 70 for West Kelowna and less than 20 for Westbank First Nation.
Brolund also shared the number of structures saved in the West Kelowna area of operations, which he said was over 3,000.
North Westside Fire Chief Ross Kotscherofski had similar sentiments to Brolund, but also provided an estimate regarding losses up Westside Road beyond City of West Kelowna limits.
“I can report we have roughly less than 100 (structures lost) at this time," he said, noting that the number is based on what he's seen driving through the area every day. "The areas that look to be the hardest hit are the Traders Cove community as well as Lake Okanagan Resort."
Both fire chiefs on the west side of the lake confirmed once again that there are no reports of human loss due to the McDougall Creek wildfire.
Canada Task Force 1, which had boots on the ground assessing and counting homes in the area over the past 48 hours, was also identifying potential sites that needed to be search for people who didn't make it out of the fire.
“To the best of our knowledge at this time, there has been no loss of life and there are no missing persons outstanding from the fire," Brolund said.
He encouraged anyone who knows someone who is missing to report it to the RCMP immediately.
Brolund and Kotscherofski said it was another successful day and night of firefighting operations on the west side of the lake and that's expected to continue as conditions cooperate.
"The smoke is going to lift today. We’re going to start flying planes again. We’re going to see our friends from the BCWS out there hard at work," noted Brolund.
“The mountains around our community are going to look different. We haven’t seen them since the fire and it might be pretty dramatic to start to see what we’ve lost out there and that’s kind of the theme for today.”
Although it was a fairly calm night again, Brolund said it was still busy with crews responding to and fighting two dozen spot fires.
“There was a very close call in one of the neighbourhoods where a tree and wood pile ignited and the home nearby was saved through the action of firefighters,” he explained.
While Brolund continued to praise firefighters, he also took a minute to highlight the work of those behind the scenes, including a group of West Kelowna mechanics who are keeping essential firefighting apparatus on the road.
“They’re actually taking parts off City of West Kelowna fleet vehicles and putting them on fire trucks from other communities to get them repaired and keep them on the road," he said.
"They’re doing it quietly, in the background, without the need for any credit, but today they’re going to get that credit.”
The BC Wildfire Service continues to respond to the McDougall Creek wildfire (K52767) adjacent to West Kelowna, the Walroy Lake wildfire (K52808) adjacent to Glenmore and the Clarke Creek wildfire (K42815) on the west side of Lake Country. pic.twitter.com/AXstbWCpsT— BC Wildfire Service (@BCGovFireInfo) August 20, 2023
The most recent mapping of the McDougall Creek wildfire is 12,000 hectares, a new figure provided by the BC Wildfire Service this morning and attributed to growth in the west and northwest.
That's only 1,000 hectares of growth since the last size estimate of Saturday afternoon, although Brad Litke from the BCWS said that visibility is still posing challenges and the latest size an estimate.
According to Litke, there are 15 helicopters assigned to the entire Grouse Complex, which includes all three Central Okanagan fires.
Specifically on the McDougall Creek fire, there are 51 firefighters, 15 single resources, 172 structure personnel, BC Hydro and RCMP working throughout the day today. There were 27 structural personnel, 22 firefighters and RCMP working overnight.
Crews are expecting lighter winds today, but also a threat of thunderstorms. Litke said that comes with wind, but also potentially rain, which "would be helpful." The latest forecast shows that rain is expected to fall on and off this afternoon and potentially more consistently tonight.
Litke added that cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity should provide for more stability and lower fire behaviour observed today.
(Original story: Aug. 22 @ 9:40 am) - Calmer conditions in the Central Okanagan have allowed fire crews to get some important work done in West Kelowna.
Their hard work and a bit of cooperation from Mother Nature has prevented the McDougall Creek wildfire from exhibiting too much growth since the weekend.
After ballooning to 11,000 hectares on Saturday, there wasn’t another size estimate for the fire for nearly three days as the smoke prevented any attempts at aerial mapping.
However, a slight bit of reprieve on that front thanks to a small bit of rain Monday night has allowed the BC Wildfire Service to provide an updated estimate this morning.
The McDougall Creek wildfire is now estimated at 12,000 hectares, an increase of just 1,000 hectares since Saturday.
However, it was just a small percentage of those affected, as thousands of residents remain out of their homes today.
Crews have been working 24 hours a day to achieve some important objectives, which includes extinguishing hot spots, building control lines and even trying to connect the fire’s edge into an old fire scar from 2015.
On Monday, West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund said that the initial counts have identified 50 structures lost to the blaze, but that number will grow as they get into the more heavily hit areas.
He did confirm that no structures were lost in Smith Creek, Tallus Ridge, Shannon Lake, Rose Valley and the Lenz Road trailer park.
Brolund, along other local fire chiefs and officials, will provide another update on the fires today at 10 am.